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Archive: Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise

In another article from the Impact archives, we go back to 1994 when Impact checked out the Hulkster's heroically high-concept t.v. pilot…

Hulk Hogan in March 1994 Impact MagazineAfter three near misses, Terry 'Hulk' Hogan has finally scored a hit with Thunder in Paradise. The pilot for his action-packed new t.v. series is out on video, and a must-see for fans of Baywatch, The A-Team and WWF wrestling. The problem with Hogan's earlier vehicles No Holds Barred and Suburban Commando was that they saw him deliver performances at but one volume: LOUD! Mr Nanny was a step in the right direction, but many fans found the mix of The Hulkster and some Home Alone kiddie antics a little hard to take. Finally, with Thunder in Paradise, the REAL Terry Hogan steps into the limelight, and we are presented with a hero who is as likeable as he is lethal, as huggable as he is huge. If Thunder goes to series, it's certain to be a hit. If not, then Thunder in Paradise will remain the best 'movie' so far in Hulk Hogan's career.

"Baywatch was very popular," says Hogan, "but the one element people felt was missing was action. For Thunder, we used the whole technical crew from Baywatch, and we have that same combination of beautiful women and gorgeous beaches AND we have the action as well." Thunder in Paradise stars Hogan as former Navy SEAL R.J. 'Hurricane' Spencer. He and partner Martin Brubaker (Chris Lemmon) have designed and built a high-tech superboat, Thunder, as a prototype to win them a contract with the U.S. Navy. When the contract goes to a rival bidder, the pair decide to go into the business for themselves, using Thunder to take on assignments in order to earn back the money they spent building it. The stage is set for any number of adventures, with Spence and Bru hurtling across the waves from their Miami beach base. Once the initial outline had been put together, it was up to The Hulkster to provide the selling power to allow the series to fly. "I met with (Italian communications magnate) Silvio Berlusconi," remembers Hogan. "We're both Italians, and it only took one cappuccino for us to come to an agreement!"

Hulk Hogan in Impact Magazine March 1994Besides Hogan, who has a massive following from his W.W.F. days, Thunder features an impressive cast drawn from a variety of different backgrounds. Hulk's co-star, Chris Lemmon, is the son of veteran Hollywood thespian Jack, and his ironic acting style is very similar to his father's. There's a real chemistry between him and Terry, which is unusual when you consider their differing backgrounds. "He's an athlete who's getting into all this athletic stuff," explains Lemmon, "while I'm an actor getting into all this athletic stuff! We're trying to get a timing between us, an interplay like you find with a good comedy duo. Trouble is, we're never sure who the straight man is!" Given that the show spends so much time on or near the beach, it should come as no surprise to see former swimsuit model Carol Alt in the cast. The Sports Illustrated Swimwear issue has become something of an institution in the U.S.A., with numerous imitators. Alt plays a beach bar owner who's more than capable of defending herself against Bru's advances. One-time Flash Gordon Sam Jones has made a career for himself as a solid B movie player, and was recently seen taking on the mob in Fist of Honour and terrorising Cynthia Rothrock in Angel of Fury. Here, he gets a nice villain role as our heroes' swashbuckling foe.

Finally, there's a nice cameo from former Avenger Patrick MacNee as the scheming uncle trying to do lovely hotelier Felicity Waterman out of her inheritance. "I'd stack our cast up against anyone working on a prime time action show," says Hogan proudly. "Everyone of them is a professional and a joy to work with."

The one potential hitch in the whole production was the state of Hogan's left eye, which was badly bruised during his WWF finale. Who says the wrestling is always faked? Rather than delay the filming of the Thunder pilot, Hulk gamely decided to forge ahead, and a quick script rewrite was undertaken to explain that Spence had been suckerpunched just before the episode began. This explains the use of an eyepatch, sunglasses and the angling of Terry's face so the left eye is less prominent. One source of irritation was that, as the show was shot out of sequence over many days, the eye had to remain constantly blackened and bloodshot, even as it healed, so as to match up with earlier shots. As the real injury faded, more and more f.x. make-up had to be added!

Impact Magazine March 1994 coverIt's evident that no expense has been spared in giving Thunder in Paradise a high gloss finish. From the slick credits and punchy upbeat score to bright cinematography and fast-paced editing, it's a quality show all the way, leaving its nearest rival, The A-Team, standing. When interviewed after Mr Nanny, Hogan pondered the different directions in which his career could go. "There are a lot of people out there wondering what Hulk Hogan would look like with a gun in his hand," he observed. They need wonder no more. The Hulkster gets to do the Rambo bit in this movie, complete with guns, knife and Commando-style face paint. At present, and despite the bleatings of the moral minority, American t.v. is packed with action shows, including Raven, Street Justice, Highlander, Renegade, Viper, Cobra and Walker: Texas Ranger. What does Hogan feel Thunder has to offer that these other star vehicles don't? "A sense of humour, for one thing," he opines. "A sense of fun. We're not taking this too serious. There's action, but it's comic book style action. I think kids are going to love this show. They're going to wish THEY were alongside Spence and Bru, riding in Thunder."

The stand-out technical accomplishment of the show is undoubtedly its name-sake, the superboat Thunder, which looks set to take its place next to The Batmobile and the Knightrider car in the pantheon of much loved t.v. star vehicles. The boat features more gadgetry than your average Thunderbird, and is supported in action by a satellite link and a whole range of interactive props. Thunder was a variant on the Scarab class speedboat, built for the show by Wellcraft marine. "All the technology that's seen in the show actually exists," claims Hogan. "It's not necessarily all on one boat, but it's pretty much available to anyone who could afford it. In some areas, we just looked at the technology available and then looked a little way into the future to see where it's heading."

Thanks to Hulk Hogan's tireless tubthumping on behalf of this dream project, Thunder in Paradise was one of the hits of this year's Mipcom t.v. festival. Now that the pilot is out on video, let's hope the show itself gets a network screening. It's perfect for that void that exists in Saturday afternoons…

Hulk Hogan Filmography

Rocky 3 (1982)

Hogan appears as 'Thunderlips', a thinly disguised version of his wrestling alter ego. His boxing vs grappling bout with Stallone is one of the high-points of the film.

The A-Team (1985)

Hulk made a guest appearance as (surprise!) a wrestler in an episode of the hit action series, opposite longtime pal Mr T. Wonder if he'll return the favour now he has his own show?

No Holds Barred (1987)

Hogan appears as 'Rip', a thinly disguised version of his wrestling alter ego. The Hulkster was fine, but the redneck humour left a lot to be desired.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

Hulk gets a great cameo, as himself, which audiences loved. He did it in order to meet Spielberg, who produced the flick, but never did!

Suburban Commando (1991)

Hulk plays an intergalactic bounty hunter who imposes himself upon suburbanite Christopher Lloyd and family. With a little wit, this could have been his best film to date.

Mr Nanny (1993)

Hogan plays a former wrestler who is hired by an absentee father to mind some, precocious kids. Hulk manages to bring the family back together while fending off the bad guys.